The new (to me) Infinity Music Hall in Hartford played host to Brooklyn dhol and brass band Red Baraat on a post-show Saturday during March Madness. Those two factors likely had a measurable impact on the attendance, but those faithful fans who made it out were seriously into the music. Some were even families with kids—and all were dancing unabashedly to the bhangra fusion.
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The 30th anniversary benefit concert for the Tibet House US organization was the gemstone in a slew of events celebrating the 80th birthday of Philip Glass. Glass is the artistic director for the annual benefit shows and this year’s slate featured many familiar faces from recent years including Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Scorchio Quartet, Lavinia Meijer and Laurie Anderson. It also included the Alabama Shakes and New Order.
The latter’s Bernard Sumner joined Pop for “Stray Dog” and Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control”. Sufjan Stevens was introduced by the Executive Director of the ACLU Anthony Romero before he spoke briefly about love then performed “The Star Spangled Banner” with the aid of the Scorchio Quartet. Patti Smith wrapped up the evening with a cover of Dylan’s “Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall” and led nearly all the musicians in a rousing “People have the Power” set. Smith’s final words to the audience were rousing—she implored, “Use your voice, be vigilant, be strong, be happy.”
Drive-By Truckers wrapped up their 17 date winter tour with a three night run in their hometown of Athens, Georgia. Just before that however, the band played a two hour set to a capacity crowd at New York’s Webster Hall. Kyle Craft kicked off the night around 7:30 before Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, Brad Morgan, Jay Gonzalez, Matt Patton wasted no time once they began around 8:30 quickly filling the venue with their scuzzy guitars and generously liberal political message.
Drive-By Truckers most recent album American Band (ATO Records) is their most political yet and has drawn a slew of critical adoration. The band led the show with two of the new tracks, “Surrender Under Protest” and “Darkened Flags on the Cusp of Dawn”, making it transparent they had a message to share. Introducing the racial-discussion of “What It Means”, Hood spoke on how he wrote the song a couple of years back using the murder of Michael Brown as some sort of guidance. But Hood admitted he finds the song is more relevant now given the remarkable rise in incidents of police shooting and killing black people. The lines “I mean Barack Obama won / And you can choose where to eat / But you don’t see too many white kids lying / Bleeding on the street” was even more tragic in the light of a Trump victory and the presumption he will reduce or destabilize gun control efforts.
One of the highlights on the newly released Johnnyswim album, Georgica Pond, is the lovely song about solitude and yearning, “Lonely Night in Georgia”. The Nashville-based duo was joined by country legend Vince Gill who helped co-write and sing on the track.
Gill was nowhere to be found at Johnnyswim’s Atlanta, Georgia gig, but it didn’t really matter. The sold out show at the newly refurbished Buckhead Theater was packed with fans who knew every word to the song even though the album it appears on is less than a month old. Johnnyswim were having whatever is the opposite of a lonely night in the Peach State. On a balmy Southern night in November, Johnnyswim was in good company.
Over two nights in the middle of December, jazz guitarist Rez Abbasi premiered his new work Unfiltered Universe at Asia Society in Manhattan alongside his esteemed band, Invocation. Invocation includes two other prominent musicians steeped in South Asian styles, Vijay Iyer on piano and Rudresh Mahanthappa on saxophone as well as Johannes Weidenmueller on bass, Dan Weiss on drums and Elizabeth Means on cello. Invocation shouldn’t be considered a fusion band or world music, however—the Indian influences are more subtle.
As the Village Voice noted in a recent interview with Abbasi, “Invocation plays jazz compositions, all by Abbasi, and relates to Indian music at a very broad level (both styles are fundamentally driven by improvisation) and a very subtle one, shaped by years of listening to Indian music and working with Indian musicians—not in between.”